When retired attorney Daniel McGown returned to his home in Akron, Ohio on Monday after a weekend visiting family, he discovered that his home had been broken into while he was gone. The front door of his home had been pried open with a shovel, and inside, the 73-year old discovered that thieves had stolen several firearms, ammunition, and other items from the home.
McGown notified police, but he was concerned that the intruders might return, so Monday evening when he went to bed, he decided to sleep with a pistol under his pillow. Early Tuesday morning, he’d be forced to use it.
Just after 5 a.m. Tuesday, he heard someone ringing his doorbell. He didn’t answer.
Then he heard someone enter the home. Gun drawn, McGown came downstairs and found a male suspect standing in his living room. He told the man not to move and ordered him to lie down on the floor and put his hands where McGown could see them.
The burglar cooperated with the armed septuagenarian, even walking upstairs in front of McGown while the retired attorney had the gun trained on him so McGown could retrieve his cell phone and call police. Once officers arrived, they were able to take 51-year old Thomas Gaffney into custody without incident.
It was the first time that McGown, who said he has a concealed carry permit, pointed a loaded gun at a person. He said he wasn’t scared or anxious.
“At the time, I wasn’t adrenaline fueled,” he said. “At the time, I just wanted him to stay there until the police came. I didn’t want to have to do anything other than hold him. And it turns out I didn’t.”
But McGown, whose home also was burglarized about six years ago, was prepared to shoot.
“If he had reached his hand towards a pocket or something where I thought he might have had one of the guns that went away last night or the night before, I might have been tempted to do that,” he said. “But I’m glad it didn’t come to that.”
I think we’re all glad it didn’t come to that. Like the vast majority of defensive gun uses, McGown didn’t have to pull the trigger to protect himself. The presence of the firearm in the hands of the armed citizen was enough to prevent the crime from escalating any further. In fact, after Gaffney left in the custody of local police, McGown was able to go back to bed, instead of to the hospital.
After police left the scene, McGown went back to bed. Asked how he could sleep after confronting a burglar, he replied with a laugh: “I’m 73 years old, I can sleep almost anytime.”
“I didn’t view it as taking the law into my own hands,” he added. “What I viewed it as — my home was being violated and here was a guy doing it in my presence, here’s the guy and I wanted him to stop doing that. Once I made him stop doing that, I had no trouble going to sleep because I had done what I was supposed to do and no more.”
As for Gaffney, he’s currently facing one burglary charge, but police are investigating to see if he’s connected to a string of burglaries that have taken place in the neighborhood over the past six weeks. McGown may not have only prevented a burglary to his own home. He may very well have stopped a crime spree, thanks in part to the pistol under his pillow.